atlassian

Atlassian

I'm an engineering manager at Trello, leading a web growth team serving millions of customers worldwide.

See my resume

An engineering manager and creative technologist.

Over a decade of experience working for some great companies: Square, Gucci, Pocket, and more.

Square

Square

I was a front end platform engineering manager for the popular payments service.

Learn more
General Assembly

General Assembly

I taught front end web development and a self-designed responsive web design workshop to future developers, entrepreneurs, and designers.

Learn more
Gucci

Gucci

I was the front end lead for all design and development on gucci.com, a global e-commerce fashion site.

Learn more

Latest Blog Posts

Game Pass needs Call of Duty more than ever

According to The Verge, Microsoft is debating on whether to add the new Call of Duty on Game Pass. It’s a no-brainer: COD would easily be Game Pass’s most high-profile title, giving a potential injection to growth to its otherwise plateaued subscriber base.

Opting out COD from Game Pass will effectively end the service as Xbox’s final differentiator against PlayStation, Nintendo, and Steam. A case by case treatment of “our games will come to Game Pass day one” will annoy existing subscribers. Nor is there any clear criteria – budget, branding, genre – to distinguish what enters Game Pass day one in a way that’s satisfactory to both Microsoft corporate or the Xbox player base. Even with clear messaging, in losing some day and date first party titles, a weakened Game Pass no longer properly distinguishes itself from PS5’s competing PlayStation Plus service.

Admittedly, corporate accounting will provide insight that I can’t speculate on. Maybe Microsoft ran the numbers, and a game of COD’s stature on Game Pass is simply too big of a sales revenue hit to ever swallow. Perhaps Game Pass’s long-term fiscal sustainability is long past the expiration point, and this is just the first in a line of walkbacks to slow the burn rate down.

Continue reading…

The shutdown of Tango Gameworks erodes trust in Xbox

It’s sadly easy to become numb to the news of more layoffs in the gaming industry, given its frequency over recent months. But Microsoft’s shutdown of four Bethesda studios stands out for its blatant reversal of Xbox’s purported post acquisition, Game Pass-centric future. The about face erodes trust in the Xbox brand and questions whether there’s any coherent first party strategy.

The shuttering of Tango Gameworks was particularly galling. The studio’s latest release, Hi-Fi Rush, exemplified the independence, creativity, and high quality that Xbox leadership claimed their first studios should aim for. Hi-Fi was a critical darling, landing on many critics’ top 10 lists, won a BAFTA, and was Xbox’s highest first party game of 2023 on OpenCritic. It also was a creative risk for Tango Gameworks, a bright, colorful throwback to the Dreamcast era for a studio that built its reputation on survival horror games.

Hi-Fi’s excellence also leveled up the value of Game Pass, Xbox’s greatest differentiator against the competition. It’s a draw for the service on its merit and the kind of high quality gem that can serve as an effective gap between some major AAA releases on Game Pass to minimize customer churn.

Continue reading…

Active breaks help the daily grind

The time we spend away from work can be as critical to our job’s success as when we clock in. That’s why active breaks – brief, focused, fun, and ready to go – are essential to my everyday routine. They keep me more productive and, on challenging work days, provide just enough fulfillment to keep the day palatable.

My active breaks all follow a pattern. They have natural stopping points that fall under thirty minutes. They demand lean forward, focused attention. No multi-tasking. No throwing something else on in the background. They are fulfilling and enjoyable to me, and only me. Active breaks aren’t for other people or my career growth. They are readily available, the kind of effort I can pick up almost any time; plans can change, and I never know when the mind needs a rest.

Continue reading…

The decline of directorial auteur runs

I recently watched Frances Ford Coppola’s Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now on the big screen. Like many other directors of his era, he charted his path through auteur runs: multiple movies in a row with wide distribution and a personal artistic vision. No extended detours into TV. No five plus year gaps between films. No anonymous paycheck gigs. Coppola’s output from 1972 to 1979 – The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now – was arguably the greatest auteur run ever. Such directorial stretches used to be commonplace but are rare today, especially for younger directors. It’s a trend that, left unchecked, can threaten film’s cultural relevance.

But before getting too pessimistic about the situation, I did some research. I looked at Sight and Sound’s 2022 critics poll alongside the most popular movies on Letterboxd for a more populist take. From these sources, I hand picked at least forty directors who each had at least one reasonable auteur run: three or no movies in wide release (e.g., available across your average American cineplex or widely popular for rental or streaming) with no gaps greater than five years and no obvious mercenary gigs.

Every decade, many influential directors have had auteur runs at their critical and financial peak. In the 50s and 60s, there was Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Wilder, Fellini, and Goddard. The 70s brought New Hollywood in with Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Friedkin, and Lucas. The 80s were defined by filmmakers as varied as Spielberg, De Palma, Stone, Carpenter, Cameron, Zemeckis, and Lynch. For the 90s we had Tarantino, Soderbergh, Lee, Linklater, Fincher, the Coen brothers, and Paul Thomas Anderson. I’d argue the 2000s saw a meaningful dip, but we still saw talent like Bigelow, Anderson, Wan, McDonaugh, and Iñárritu break out.

Continue reading…

Live service games are taking the wrong lessons from Fornite

Fortnite is a gaming success story that is paradoxically underreported, underrated, and misunderstood by the many new games as a service (GaaS) that try to emulate its feature set. Mainstream hype about Fortnite (e.g., billion dollar Disney investments, musical collaborations with Lady Gaga) obscures a primary reason the game continues to crush virtually every would be competitor in its path: it nails its fundamentals beautifully.

Every time I boot up Fortnite, I have enormous flexibility to play how I want. Within its multiplayer shooter core, there’s an immense variety of skins and other customization options. The artistry isn’t always for me, but the cosmetics set a consistently high quality bar. When I start a multiplayer match, I can chase the XP goals I’m in the mood for, whether combat-focused, exploration, or a mini battle pass narrative story. Skill based match making strikes a good balance; I can challenge myself by purposefully landing in frenzied hot zones or begin a match far away from the action to take things at a slower pace.

Fortnite also respects my money and time. Its battle pass doles out decent, reasonably varied rewards at a faster clip than most of the competition. Even half finished, I end up earning enough V-bucks to allow me to buy a future battle pass at a reduced rate. The time to kill is reasonably high compared to other popular shooters like Call of Duty or Apex Legends, which gives me a competitive opportunity to react and fight back against better players. Matches rarely last longer than twenty minutes.

Continue reading…

Dreams of 4K HDR are fading into 1080p realities

A year ago, I criticized Netflix for gatekeeping their highest quality video and audio content behind a premium tier. Max, Prime Video, and Disney Plus have since added similar pricing structures. If you want 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos movies from the biggest four streaming sites, you’ll have to pay more, anywhere from $3 to $7 a month. On a practical level, it ensures the majority of the home movie-watching audience will do so capped at the same 1080p and Dolby Digital 5.1 streams we’ve had for over a decade.

As someone who wants the home movie experience to be great, this is depressing news, especially when the pipeline of high quality audio and video has never been better. Modern capture tech ensures that most film productions, regardless of budget, record in a 4K HDR-friendly format. As home internet bandwidth improves, more households can stream higher quality content without stuttering. Also, practically every TV sold today, including entry level models, supports 4K HDR, while Atmos-ready soundbars and sound systems are more affordable than ever.

Continue reading…

Naughty Dog and the pitfalls of flat hierarchies

Watching Grounded II, a documentary on the making of The Last of Us: Part II, revealed unexpected parallels with my career. Making video games differs from shipping web apps, but the doc highlighted common challenges in navigating developers through hard deadlines, decision making, and resource management. I walked away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for how engineering managers can help ship great products.

Naughty Dog, the studio behind TLOU2, didn’t share my optimistic view on EMs. For most of its history, the studio went against industry trends by rarely hiring producers (dedicated roles to manage the project’s timeline and resource needs) or people managers. Department leads served as both individual contributors and quasi-managers. Naughty Dog leadership argued the producers and managers were a “crutch”, bureaucratic red tape that slowed down productivity and stifled creativity. Boasts around flat studio hierarchy appear as an aside in the documentary’s opening act.

Continue reading…

The unfulfilled ambition of the Xbox ecosystem

During last week’s business update, Microsoft leadership reaffirmed two differentiators for the Xbox ecosystem: Game Pass (every first party game coming day one) and platform accessibility (cross-play, cross-save, cloud streaming). Yet I don’t see either feature today as a compelling reason for net new gamers beyond the PC and console core – Xbox’s stated long term growth target – to jump in with Xbox. They are features with huge potential but are stuck today in alpha mode.

Game Pass unquestionably has a lot of great games, but most of the library encompasses small, under the radar indie titles or older catalog hits. Microsoft puts all its first party titles on the service, but none have the marquee prestige and popularity of franchises popularized on rival systems from Sony and Nintendo. Furthermore, I find the onboarding process on Game Pass intimidating for newcomers. There’s a bewildering number of choices, and the Game Pass app’s recommendation system is limited and simplistic; there’s no sense of individual game length or difficulty to guide new players.

Continue reading…

Xbox’s third party gambit

Recent news suggests Microsoft will shift Xbox to a multiplatform release strategy; existing and future first party games, including Starfield, Indiana Jones, and Gears of War will be ported to PS5 and Nintendo Switch. While we won’t know the whole story until a “business update” next week, I expect the change to be extensive, with many if not most top tier titles available soon on PSN and the Nintendo Store. In the face of lagging sales and stalled Game Pass subscriptions, the corporation is making a big bet that will attempt to thread a needle: keep an Xbox ecosystem sustainable – digital purchases on the Microsoft Store, lively Xbox Live network, Game Pass subscribers – while going multiplatform with in house studio games to generate additional revenue.

It’s a risk; no gaming company has succeeded as such an extensive third party publisher and simultaneous platform holder. Executed poorly, the plan could push the Xbox ecosystem into an eventual death spiral: gamers shift away from Xbox with its lack of exclusives, the install base drops, so other publishers stop porting games to Xbox, which leads to fewer players, until eventually Microsoft pulls the plug. Xbox hardware and accessories are dead, the digital library goes kaput, and Microsoft becomes a pure third party publisher like Sega.

Continue reading…

4k Blu-rays: excellent format, questionable lifespan

I have mixed feelings about 4K Blu-rays after plowing a lot of time and money into the technology. The format has significant hurdles for everyday TV watchers that make me question its longevity. Yet the upgrades have been substantial, at times incredible, even with a dated home theater setup.

That upgrade stems from Blu-ray’s unimpeachable picture and sound quality. In an era where most movies on streaming sites are compressed 1080p, where 4K streams may not even be an option unless you’re on a premium monthly plan, a 4K Blu-ray’s rock solid 4K HDR image looks sensational. The detail can be astonishing. In Blade Runner, as a character reads a newspaper, I can make out the text on individual articles. 4K Blu-rays also preserve the original film grain for movies shot on film stock, given the high quality scan. It’s a subtle effect that adds character, especially for older, classic films.

In fairness, you can purchase and rent many streaming movies in 4K. It’s also a commonplace resolution for streaming originals on services like Netflix and Apple TV Plus. However, because the data transfer rate on streaming is a third to a quarter of that on Blu-ray (streams top out at 40mbps, while Blu-ray maxes to 128mbps), the former relies on compression and other algorithmic tricks to deliver video.

Continue reading…

Read more blog posts